WHO ‘strongly discourages’ use of two COVID treatments

(Correction to explain that WHO has expanded the conditional use of remdesivir to include severe COVID patients in section 11)

By Natalie Grover

LONDON (Reuters) -Two COVID-19 antibody therapies are no longer recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), as Omicron and the variant’s newest offshoots have likely rendered them obsolete.

The two therapies — designed to work by binding to SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein to neutralize the virus’ ability to infect cells — were some of the first drugs to be launched early in the pandemic. developed.

The virus has evolved since then, and mounting evidence from lab testing suggests that the two therapies — both sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab — have limited clinical activity against the latest iterations of the virus. As a result, they have also fallen out of favor with the US health regulator.

On Thursday, WHO experts said they strongly discourage the use of the two therapies in patients with COVID-19, reversing previous conditional recommendations they endorsed, as part of a series of recommendations published in the British Medical Journal.

Sotrovimab from GSK and partner Vir Biotechnology — which has generated multi-billion dollar sales and became one of the British drugmaker’s top sellers last year — was pulled from the U.S. market in April by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Since the United States began to question the clinical effectiveness of sotrovimab against Omicron as early as February, WHO’s realization is coming a little late, said Penny Ward, visiting professor of pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London.

“Now that the WHO has issued this recommendation, it will be interesting to see how many other countries join in,” she said.

Regeneron and partner Roche’s antibody cocktail casirivimab-imdevimab has also generated billions in sales and was one of the top-selling US drug makers last year.

In January, the FDA revised its stance on the treatment and limited its use to a smaller group of patients, citing reduced potency against the Omicron variant.

Both therapies are still recommended for use by the European drug regulatory agency.

Another COVID therapy that emerged early in the pandemic was Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir. The WHO expanded its conditional recommendation for the drug, advising that it can be used in both severe COVID and non-severe COVID patients at the highest risk of hospitalization.

There are a handful of existing COVID therapies that remain useful in the fight against the virus, and others in development that are expected to benefit patients as well.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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